Knitting success

Up-and-coming designer Simone Shailes latest collection of chunky knitwear just picked up the L'Oreal Professionnel Fashion Design award at the Top Shop-sponsored New Gen exhibition at London Fashion Week. Indy Student managed to lure her away from canapés and the catwalk for a chat about how she went from knitting with her nan to kitting-out Kylie.

How did it feel to pick up your award?

Absolutely amazing! In knitwear and women’s fashion, you’re up against so many other great designers you almost feel not worthy of being there, so it was quite overwhelming. Winning the L’Oreal award has definitely been the highlight of my career so far.

How did you get into the fashion industry?

I’ve always loved clothes and dressing myself so that’s where wanting to do fashion came from, but I ended up studying textiles at the University of Brighton because I didn’t get much experience of fashion from the foundation course I took before going to university. But the whole time I was studying I knew I wanted to be more involved in the fashion side of things – that’s why I applied to Central Saint Martins College of Art.

What made you specialise in knitwear?

There are just so many techniques to be explored with knitting and it can take on so many different forms. My nan taught me to knit when I was eight, and I’ve always loved doing things with my hands – and making an entire garment out of yarn is such a satisfying experience.

How long does it take you to make a piece?

For the collection I produced while I was at Saint Martins I was knitting almost non-stop for 18 hours a day for a whole week, just for each piece!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

There isn’t anything in particular that inspires me. I’m a bit like a weird sponge, picking up bits and bobs from everywhere.

How have you found the fashion industry since leaving university?

It’s been really exciting. There’s definitely a lot of support out there for young designers, it’s just a question of getting your hands on it. This is not an easy industry to get into and money is always an issue, but there are a lot of people who want to help – it’s just a question of seeking them out.

What’s the next step in your career?

I have been collaborating with Top Shop who have taken some of my Masters designs and developed them to be sold in stores in November, and I’ve just accepted a job with a fashion house so I’m actually going to be putting a stop on my own label.

Have any celebrities ever asked you to design a piece for them?

No, unfortunately not! But once I did some work experience for Julian McDonald, working on a dress for Kylie Minogue. It was quite a fancy one with lots of beading and Swarovski crystals – she wore it on one of her tours.

Where do you like to shop for clothes?

I’m a vintage girl, mostly because I’m always broke! I like seeking out vintage pieces because you’re not going to see anyone else wearing the same thing. Beyond Retro, near Brick Lane in London’s East End is a particular favourite of mine.

Finally, any advice for budding designers out there?

It’s important to develop a strong personal style in your work because there are so many designers out there doing great things. You really have to make your work stand out from the crowd.

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